Violent crime in the city of Los Angeles fell for the 10th year in a row to its lowest level in decades, even as property crime reversed its downward trend and posted a slight uptick, the mayor and police chief announced Monday.
"Our data shows that, in 2012, Los Angeles had the fewest violent crimes per capita than any big city in the United States of America," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said during a news conference at Los Angeles Police Department headquarters.
"Last year, there was a citywide reduction in robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft, and - for the third year in a row - we saw fewer than 300 homicides," he added.
Police Chief Charlie Beck said the 18,293 violent crimes recorded in 2012 represented an 8.2 percent slide from the year before. Statistics showed significant decreases in robbery and aggravated assault offset increases in rape and homicide.
"This is the lowest violent crime level in the city of Los Angeles since William Parker was chief (of the LAPD in the '50s and '60s)," Beck said.
He added a 10.5 percent drop in gang-related crimes overall helped drive the numbers down, noting the 152 gang-related homicides last year were the fewest in decades.
The city, however, saw property crimes increase for the first time in years, though by only 0.2 percent for a total of 85,866 thefts, burglaries and carjackings.
Beck blamed the uptick on a 30 percent increase in cellphone thefts, in particular, and he urged the public to take precautions to prevent their various electronic gadgets from being stolen.
"Lock it, hide it and you'll keep it," he advised. "Put the responsibility on yourself for keeping your property safe. If you do that, then I can continue to reduce crime in the city of Los Angeles."
Beck also attributed some of the increase in property crime to realignment, which took effect in October 2011. That law, backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, included a provision that placed certain ex-cons on probation instead of parole.
"When realignment was originally announced, I predicted property crime would increase in Los Angeles by a couple of percentage points because of it, and I believe that has occurred," he said, calling for the law to be "tweaked" so that police can monitor ex-cons more closely.
Taken together, the overall drop in violent crimes and property crimes in 2012 was 1.4 percent, the smallest percentage decline in the last five years.
In 2008, during the recession, overall crimes receded 7.6 percent. In 2011, the drop was 4.6 percent.
Beck, however, bristled at the observation that last year's 1.4 percent drop in the overall crime rate seemed under par.
"You're minimizing something that is a remarkable achievement," he said.
"Why don't you ask the other cities that had an increase? Why don't you ask New York, Chicago, the county of Los Angeles, if they would like to have 1.4 percent."
Villaraigosa, whose term ends in June, said he hopes the incoming mayor - whoever it may be - will make the continued hiring of police officers a priority.
He said the LAPD recently hit a milestone when its ranks swelled to 10,000, but added Los Angeles remains "the most underpoliced big city" in the country. He refused to back a proposed ballot measure to boost the sales tax if the LAPD is not allowed to continue growing.
"There is no way I would support a sales tax if we don't continue police hiring," Villaraigosa said.
"These numbers (the declining crime rates) don't lie," he added. "These numbers are a reflection of growing our police department, of our commitment to community policing."
Beck vowed the LAPD would continue to lower crime rates by remaining data-driven in its crime suppression strategies, and by working closely with the Mayor's Gang Reduction and Youth Development Office.
He also vowed to expand "predictive policing, which uses logarithms to predict where crime will occur and to control the response of officers," as well as more officers long-term to the toughest parts of the city so they can form deep partnerships with the communities there.
He also intends to continue Operation Ceasefire, which calls for talking to gang members so they know the consequences of continued violent crimes, and Operation Laser, which closely tracks people who have committed violent crimes in the past and are likely to do so again.